The Prophet’s legacy

Updated January 14, 2014

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THE Holy Prophet (PBUH) is a point of unity for all Muslims, regardless of which school of thought they adhere to. The words revealed to him by the Almighty — the Quran — are the central codex for every believer, while his Sunnah (way of life) is to be emulated. In fact, the Messenger has been described as uswatul hasana (an excellent example) in the Holy Book.

Following the Prophet’s example requires the believer to learn about how he lived while carrying out his mission both during the initial period in Makkah and later in Madina, after the migration, as well as how he addressed different spiritual and worldly problems. In essence, Islam expects believers to make earnest efforts to learn about the Prophet so that they may live their lives according to his example.

This can be done through poring over the great works of seerah, hadith and history, as well as listening to what scholars of repute have to say.

In fact, if efforts are made to study the Prophet’s life with all prejudices set aside, sectarian and doctrinal differences may give way to consensus and a spirit of ecumenism within the world of Islam, enabling Muslims to live in harmony with themselves and with others.

Conversely, not studying the Prophet’s life will only add to the differences within the world of Islam, as each group claims its own view constitutes the ‘authentic’ Sunnah.

Debate, dialogue and research about the Prophet’s life, what he preached and how he preached it may bring the varying strands of Islamic thought together. Dare one say that it is due to not fully understanding the magnanimous personality of Allah’s Messenger that today there is such a great number of claimants to what is truly ‘Islamic’?

The hate-filled militant claims to act in the name of Islam, as does the placid Sufi, while the dignified scholar and zealous missionary also claim to be inspired by Islam.

Only by studying the authentic sources concerning the Prophet can we reach a consensus about what is and what is not Islamic.

Yet while Muslims are free to consult various literature about the Prophet’s life, the living history associated with the Noble Messenger in his birthplace as well as the city of his residence has practically been wiped out.

The ‘development’ of Makkah and Madina by the Saudi authorities over the decades has actually resulted in cutting off Muslims from the sites that were intimately related to the Prophet. Perhaps this is among the reasons why Muslims today are so fragmented and confused: we have been separated from our history and the legacy of our Prophet.

Leading Saudi architect and a prominent campaigner for saving the Islamic heritage of Hejaz Sami Angawi estimates that over the past half century or so, over 300 historical sites in Makkah and Madina have been destroyed.

Another figure estimates 95pc of Makkah’s buildings, some dating back a millennium, have been bulldozed. Islam’s holiest city has been completely transformed thanks to a combination of capitalist greed and fundamentalist zeal.

Instead of sites associated with the Holy Prophet and the earliest Muslims, today believers are surrounded by garish luxury hotels, shopping malls and fast-food joints.

Invaluable pearls from Islam’s history and the Prophet’s life have been lost forever. These include the house of Sayyida Khadija in Makkah, several of the mosques from the Battle of the Trench in Madina, as well as the tombs of close members of the Prophet’s family, his companions and later Muslim luminaries in Madina’s Baqi cemetery. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Every school of thought has a right to preach what it believes is ‘truly’ Islamic. But this wanton iconoclasm has deprived Muslims of a key link to their history. And as reports indicate, the authorities in Saudi Arabia now have their sights set on the Bayt al-Mawleed, the house in Makkah believed to be where the Prophet was born.

Is it not ironic that today, when Muslims are celebrating the birth of the Messenger, the very spot where he was believed to be born is under threat?

It is hoped better sense prevails and the house is spared. Too much has already been lost and the results of destroying our own history have been catastrophic. Today it is as if Muslims stand adrift in the middle of the ocean, without a compass to guide them, simply because we have been detached from our history. And this has not been the work of colonial oppressors or non-believers, but of some within the ranks of Islam.

The Prophet’s legacy belongs to over a billion individuals across the world. Let us try and preserve what is left of the living history associated with the Noble Messenger.

The writer is a member of staff.

qasim.moini@dawn.com